I told you guys I’m going to start writing more about career coaching – well, like it or not, here we go!
When you hear the word “networking,” it probably sends a chill down your spine, as you’re mentally transported to uncomfortable mixers and stilted arranged meetings in which neither party truly wants to be there. You’re probably imagining the hours it’s bound to drain from your schedule and the Netflix binge it will surely interrupt. You might even be printing take-out menus for your significant other – there’s no way you’ll be home in time for dinner.
I’m going to break this down for you.
Networking does not have to be hard. Networking should also not be limited to meetings with people you’ve never met before. I would argue that all too often, people look up when networking, when they should be looking side to side. Networking has many common misconceptions, so let’s discuss some networking basics that you need to know.
Most of the time, people network to get hired, and so they try to network with people currently in the position to do the hiring. What they’re neglecting to acknowledge, however, is that the people by their side – their peers, who are also trying to get hired – will eventually move up, and the question is, how will they remember you when they do?
In my industry, agent’s assistants become agents. Writer’s assistants become writers. And the mail clerk becomes a producer. People grow, and so too, does their influence.
Networking is not just about finding a “mentor” or making friends with someone whose position holds greater power than yours. Networking is about building a community of trusted colleagues – both in and outside of your field – and supporting each other through all stages of your careers. I’m much more inclined to help those who championed me when I was sorting giveaways in the basement of The View than I am to help someone who happens to appear every time my progress is made public.
The most powerful networking isn’t a single drink at a bar after work. The most powerful networking lies in the slow cultivation of authentic relationships. It’s about pulling each other out of valleys, sticking together in the plateaus, and celebrating every small success along the way.
So, HOW, Natalie? HOW!?
I’m going to share with you my secret “5 Minute Networking Hack.” Ready? Okay.
Hey [insert name here]!
How are you?! I saw this article today in the [name of newspaper], and it reminded me of you [insert your reasoning here]. [Now insert the link to the article].
I had to share. I hope you’re doing so well. Would love to grab a coffee when your schedule allows!
This sounds so overly simple, and that’s because it is. Networking does NOT have to be uncomfortable mixers in which you bob and weave (and if you’re me, hobble) through crowds in just-too-tall heels. It doesn’t have to be an arranged meeting in which the only thing you have in common is a mutual friend. There is a time and a place for both of those scenarios (though hopefully, infrequently), but in my experience, my most powerful and influential network are the people to my left and to my right. They’re the people who truly know you and can speak to the quality of your work and the value add you’re certain to be.
Reach out. Reach out with information you think someone might find useful. Reach out with a funny story. Reach out with an interesting article. It takes five minutes to send an email and let someone know you thought of them – and NOT just because their promotion was just published in the trades. Be someone who supports peoples’ careers at all stages of their trajectory. Invest in the people around you, and I guarantee, they will invest in you too.